Former Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel is enjoying a good first year as the quarterback coach at the University of Oklahoma. With Heupel as his mentor senior Paul Thompson is having an excellent year despite the fact he didn't know he was going to be playing quarterback until the start of training camp.
Thompson is a senior and will graduate after this season, leaving only two talented but unproven quarterbacks on the roster in junior college transfer Joey Halzle and redshirt freshman Sam Bradford. Before Rhett Bomar was dismissed from the team, the Sooners weren't seriously in the market for a quarterback. But now, with only two on the roster, it is imperative that the Sooners bring in at least one this signing period and possibly two.
Heupel is on the lookout for the next 'Josh Heupel' or so it would seem. If he can find a quarterback as good as he was at OU, then the Sooners would be in good shape over the next few years. So coach Heupel is constantly on the go getting PT ready each Saturday, while at the same time looking for the next great Sooner signal caller. However, he still had enough time to sit down with OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill.
Hale: How tough was it to go from not really recruiting any quarterbacks, to all of a sudden hoping to get back in on the best quarterbacks in the country at just a late date?
Heupel: "It has been very tough. Early we checked on all the elite guys, but didn't push and didn't get much of a response because of our situation at the beginning of the year. And by the time I started recruiting the elite guys seriously, most of them had already committed. Some were (committed) by the time I was already out on the road, or certainly by the time camp started in August. It set me back a ways, but it is also one of those things that signing day is not until February too."
Hale: What is your approach at this point, even with those that are committed to other teams?
Heupel: "Personally, I am guy who is certainly going to see if there is any interest. If there is, then I am going to continue to recruit the player and do it in the type of fashion that I am comfortable with, and hopefully he is too. If there is not any interest, I am not going to sit there and badger him and waste his time and waste my time. If there is interest, we will continue to communicate with the kid and hopefully get an opportunity to get him on campus."
Hale: How many quarterbacks have contacted you since this situation developed?
Heupel: "We get some of that and certainly we are making phone calls as well. The timing of the whole thing is very unique. It wasn't even during the summer when kids who may have even been committed had not even had a chance to come up and look at your campu,s and get a chance to get around the coaching staff. They couldn't even do that, because this happened at the beginning of two-a-days and those guys had also started their two-a-day practices. They are focused on their season as well. It is a unique situation that in many cases they haven't had a chance to see us in person."
Hale: Do you think you are making headway with some of the best quarterbacks?
Heupel: "I think we will get a great quarterback in the coming year, and he will have an opportunity to come in and compete for the starting job. He will prove his worth during his tenure here. There is no doubt about that."
Hale: Isn't the quarterback position the position of opportunity in that the best quarterbacks look for the school that provides them with the best opportunity to play early in most cases?
Heupel: "In January, February and March, as soon as that first kid makes his move and jumps out of the gate a little bit and takes the first offer, then all of a sudden you see a trickle-down effect. Pretty soon it happens real fast where kids are going and where kids are committing to. Sometimes you see some movement when you get into November, December and January."
Hale: Will you take junior college quarterback AND a high school QB?
Heupel: "I am not sure what we will do yet. We are going out there looking for the best player we can find and we will give him an opportunity to come in here and win the job."
Hale: How is Paul handling all the adjustments that are being added to the offense at this point?
Heupel: "Paul is doing well. He played well at times last week. I would have liked to have seen him make a couple of plays that I thought were out there, and I think he would say the same thing. I think he had an opportunity to get another touchdown or two. We really had an opportunity to close out the game a little bit earlier. If you can put a little more distance and make it a three possession game from a two possession game at the end of the first half, or in the first couple of series in the second half, then you feel a lot better about how we played.
"Certainly, we need to go down to Texas A&M and play smart football and take care of the football, which he has really done in the past in games and make some big plays."
Hale: How are Joey and Sam coming along in practice?
Heupel: "I think both of them — you have to constantly push day in and day-out and week by week to get yourself in position where you are preparing yourself to be the starter on Saturday. You continue to force yourself to digest as much of the offenses and defenses as you can, because that is only going to benefit you when your time comes.
"Certainly, Sam is a guy who needs to spend as much time as he can in the weight room. He is doing a tremendous job off the field and we feel like he is making a lot of progress there. That is going to allow him to put himself into a position to compete, and Joey has to balance those two things as well."
Hale: Sam works a lot as the scout team quarterback, but as the scout team quarterback can he impress the coaches?
Heupel: "I just go back and draw on my own playing experience, and your first year there you have an opportunity to go up against the best defense. You are not going to see a better defense in the Big 12 than the one you get to see everyday out there in practice. The opportunity for him to get under center, drop back and learn how to move around in the pocket, learn how to throw against different coverages, learn leverage and feel the tight throws that he can make and can't make. Those kinds of things are extremely important to the growth of a quarterback."
Hale: Josh, you were never a scout team quarterback?
Heupel: "Trust me, I was James."
Hale: How are those two throwing the ball?
Heupel: "They are doing well and they continue to come around. Sam is a guy who was a great athlete out of high school. He spent some time in football, but he spent a lot of time playing basketball and golf. So he is continuing to progress each and every day. We can see him getting better and starting to understand more of the quarterback mechanics that are going to allow him to be successful at the quarterback position. Joey is also throwing the ball well and is is also improving every day."
Two Minute Drill: Josh Heupel
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